Battling cucumber beetles

I was out at the Tipp City Community Gardens yesterday, and saw a handful of cucumber beetles – and it wasn’t long before I saw their handiwork on some of our zucchini plants.

Cucumber Beetle

Cucumber beetles are usually yellow with spots or stripes. Striped and spotted beetles actually have slightly different habits, but both eat through vegetable roots and leaves.

These little buggers love to munch through cucumbers, beans, melons, squash, pumpkins, corn and eggplant. Beetles lay their eggs in the ground near the base of the plant on which they feed. The larvae, also called corn rootworms, tunnel through vegetable roots and spend a good two to four weeks feeding. They’ll cause root damage, and you may see the injured plants turn yellow and brittle. Adult cucumber beetles aren’t any better for your plants – they come out of hibernation in spring and you’ll notice huge numbers of them on vine and bean crops. They feed on new growth and tender leaves, and you’ll notice your vegetable plants riddled with holes.

Cucumber Beetle Damage

Cucumber beetle damage on bush zucchini at the Tipp City Community Gardens.

Striped Cucumber Beetle Cuke

This is where cucumber beetles get their name – they love eating into cucumber plants and can really damage the leaves.

Striped Cucumber Beetle

Striped cucumber beetles damage both the roots and the new growth of cukes.

Luckily, there are a few ways to get rid of these pests. You can try a preventative spray, such as our Surround At Home Crop Protectant, to treat both adults and larvae.

You may also try an insect barrier; a poly propylene fabric cover will allow sunlight to reach the plants without creating a buildup of heat.. However, you’ll want to use the cover in conjunction with self-pollinating cucumbers: if you cover regular vine crops, you’ll need to pull back barrier when flowers are ready to be pollinated. I really like our Sweet Success Cukes as a self-pollinating option.

If you’re looking for another solution, try trapping the adult beetles: we carry cucumber beetle traps that are very effective at snagging the beetles. Another all-natural solution? Going after the larvae with grub-fighting nematodes. Or, try my favorite answer to any localized problem: grow tubs. Plant individual vines in grow tubs, and you can move your plants away from sites where cuke beetles have been found – effectively keeping your plants away from the problem.

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